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SRG Sites > NewTechReview > Reviews > Belkin 802.11b 11Mbps Wireless Networking Products

Belkin 802.11b 11Mbps Wireless Networking Products

Manufacturer: Belkin Corporation
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided NewTechReview with a NFR unit of this product for review.
Reviewed by Scott R. Garrigus
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If youíre planning to put together a computer network in your home or small office, you should consider going wireless. With wireless you get the freedom to roam just about anywhere in the building and you donít have to deal with cumbersome cables. Iíve been running a wireless network for a couple months now using products from Belkin, and Iíll never look back. Belkin provides a suite of wireless networking products that will fit your every need.

These products include the Wireless Cable/DSL Gateway Router, the Wireless Network Access Point, the Wireless USB Network Adapter, the Wireless Notebook Network Card, and the Wireless Desktop PCI Network Adapter. All the products provide up to a 11Mbps data rate, data and network security with 64-bit or 128-bit WEB data encryption, MAC address filtering, and interoperability with any 802.11b-compliant wireless device.

The first component in the Belkin suite is the Wireless Cable/DSL Gateway Router. The Router will allow you to share your broadband Internet connection with all the computers in your network. You can connect to any cable or DSL modem that has an Ethernet port, and if youíve already got a wire-based network installed, you can use the Routerís integrated 3-port 10/100 Base-Tx Ethernet switch to add wireless access to your existing network. As far as security is concerned, in addition to the data encryption I mentioned earlier, the Router provides a NAT firewall to protect your network from intruders. Other features include the IPSecPass-Thru (which allows you to work from another location using Virtual Private Networking), and DMZ hosting (which lets you play accelerated games over the Internet).

Connecting your computers to the wireless network is extremely easy and can be done in a variety of ways using Belkinís USB, Notebook Card, and Desktop PCI adapters. It doesnít get any easier than the Wireless USB Network Adapter. Just plug it into an available USB port, and let Windows Plug-and-Play do its thing. Thereís no need to open your PC for hardware installation, and you can connect/disconnect your computer from the network quickly and easily. If youíre using a notebook computer though, youíll probably want to go with the Wireless Notebook Network Card. This is a PCMCIA card that plugs in with ease and doesnít require you to lug around an external hardware box, like with the USB Adapter. And for desktop PC users who want to go the traditional route, Belkin provides the Wireless Desktop PCI Network Adapter. It doesnít make much sense to use this device though, unless your PC doesnít have a USB port. If youíre system is that old, however, youíll probably need to upgrade it anyway. Of course, the Desktop Adapter is the least expensive component in the suite, but thereís a reason for thatÖ it requires the Wireless Notebook Network Card. The Desktop Adapter simply converts the Notebook Card into a PCI card. This wasnít apparent to me at first, and is really the only negative aspect of the Belkin suite. So, save yourself some money and time, and just go with the USB Adapter.

Finally, if you find that you need to cover a particularly large access area, you can use the Wireless Network Access Point to expand your coverage. Normally, with the wireless network running at 11Mbps, youíll get coverage over an indoor area of up to 300 feet in radius and over an outdoor area of up to 1,800 feet in radius. As you exceed these ranges, the network will scale down its operating speed and reception will degrade as well. You can boost the operating range of the network by using the Access Point as a central point of communication. Locate the Access Point in the center of your network operating area and it will relay the data from one computer to another thus boosting your operating range. Depending on conditions, you can effectively double your network access area.

As I mentioned, Iíve been using the Belkin networking products for a while now, and Iíve experienced nothing but excellent performance. I tested the products in both home and small office environments, and found it wonderful to be able to take my laptop anywhere in the access area while retaining a network connection. In the small office, I could keep the cable clutter to a minimum, and save money on equipment by sharing a printer among all the networked PCs. At home, I could roam around to any room with my laptop and still have access to all my computer data, including being able to call up recipes from the kitchen or helpful home improvement information off the Internet from my basement workshop. Youíll wonder how you ever lived without going wireless, and using Belkin is one of the easiest ways to get there.
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